MINNEAPOLIS — Jasmyn Green began her career working with young people experiencing homelessness and poverty about a decade ago, driven by goodness and familiarity.
“I definitely had issues with my parents,” said Green who, at 17, was already living on her own. “We are now great. But it’s tough, especially when you have no options.”
Green, 29, creates those options for youth ages 16 to 24 as program manager for Oasis for Youth, a drop-in and resource center that focuses on youth in Bloomington, Richfield and Edina. Green, who’s worked with StreetWorks, Lutheran Social Service and Safe Zone, oversees the busy center filled with comfy couches, games, books and, wisely, free food. There she builds trust — and futures.
She talked about her experiences in the following question and answer session:
Q: You admit to being surprised that Twin Cities suburbs were facing challenges similar to urban settings, such as housing insecurity and hunger. What changed your mind?
A: I was doing outreach work mostly in Minneapolis and St. Paul. I remember the first time I heard about Oasis. I thought it was absolutely insane that they’d think they had issues. But I was just naive. I just didn’t know enough about young people in Oasis’ service area. Overall, the needs are not that different, but there’s a real lack of resources in the suburbs as compared to the urban core. One of the biggest barriers in the suburbs is the lack of public transportation, especially on weekends, which is a huge barrier to getting to and from work. We believe youth thrive in their own communities. Our volunteers and staff do a lot of driving.
Q: What are some reasons young people come to Oasis?
A: Many just need a safe place to be and caring adults. They often don’t have networks able to help them out with $20 to get to work or navigate a crisis. Some are trying to escape exploitation or abusive relationships, or have mental health issues. Others want to return to school or develop a trade. We pair each young person with a case manager, but we encourage them to map out their own journeys. They’re giving, talented and resilient. We walk alongside them.
Q: How many youths do you serve annually and are you growing?
A: In 2014, we served about 160 youth. In 2018, it was around 430. Each year, our numbers are growing because we are finding more and better ways to work with our young people to avoid eviction, stay employed, find a safe place to be.
Q: I cannot imagine being homeless in this cold. How did Oasis respond?
A: Oasis made sure we had plenty of warm winter gear on-site and that our staff were available to our youth remotely. We worked with other agencies that extended their hours and ensured that our young people had bus passes or gas cards so they didn’t get stranded. We helped youth find shelter with our community partners. This work is impossible without partners.
Q: What can Oasis use more of?
A: Gift cards to grocery stores and gas stations, bus passes, baby stuff, warm clothing. And connections to housing and employment. We would really benefit from connections to landlords willing to rent to our youth. We’d love to have employers willing to partner with us, like the Mall of America, where we are on-site working with its young employees to make sure they have the support they need to be successful.
Q: As you noted, collaborations are key at Oasis. Tell us about some.
A: We are most grateful for our partnership with Oak Grove Presbyterian Church, which allows us to use their building at no cost for our drop-in. We also are very proud of our partnership with MOA, the first of its kind in the nation. We have school-based case managers in our area’s nine schools, community-based case managers, and we are part of the StreetWorks Collaborative. We have unique relationships with local food shelves, Canvas Health and Bloomington Public Health. There are many others.
Q: Oasis is also a partner in Chain Reaction Theatre Project’s current production of “What Guys Really Want,” which explores masculinity in Western culture. How were you tapped for that?
A: Director Shelley Smith was a longtime volunteer at Oasis. She came and interviewed our young people to help her create some of the content. I participated in a talkback about how to help young men be their authentic selves.
Q: Your brother, Anthony Stubbs, was a young man who lived authentically. He died tragically, killed by gunfire in Minneapolis at age 23, and still no one has been charged with his murder. Do you draw strength by thinking about him?
A: My brother was amazing. He was a student and a great dad. He didn’t have a violent criminal background. I’ve never heard anybody say anything negative about my brother. Thinking of him helps me keep going, as does my son.
Q: What’s a favorite success story?
A: A young woman came to us after being financially and sexually exploited by family. We worked together to find her safe shelter and a good job. She’d come to Oasis during the day to work with me on her goals. She ended up going back to school full time, then got married and had a baby. She just closed on a house and works as a supervisor. She’s no longer being exploited and is proud of that. I joke that she should have been my case worker. It just warms my heart.